In a critical essay called "Thrills, Hills, and Spills", Alec Ross talks about how Jon Krakauer brought the genre non-fiction adventure novels back to life.
Though it sounds like a huge bummer of a story, Into Thin Air, which Krakauer published in 1997, is actually anything but. Yes, there are plenty of heartbreaking moments strewn throughout this real-life tale, but that's just part of the story. Though it depicts a deadly disaster, Into Thin Air at its core is an ode to the power of determination, community, and—most importantly—friendship. So take a deep breath and get going.
In Into Thin Air, we witness countless people experience this very thing as their vision narrows to the point that their goal—the summit of Mount Everest—is all that they can see. And while keeping your eyes glued to the television for days on end might leave you with some serious B.O. and snarls in your hair, keeping your eyes glued to the peak of Everest is pretty freaking dangerous.
Those who have extra money to bum, play the game." Robert Imbelli wrote a critical essay focusing on Jon Krakauer's structure and again the theme of spirituality.
The author had a positive attitude towards Christopher and thus brought him out as the perfect person. The understanding that the author had the inner motivation of Christopher enabled him to write a perfect story. This is because he does not necessarily write everything to the opinion he has (Krakauer 23). Therefore, the story was very fantastic because it involved research, quotes from other resources and involvement of the family of Christopher. For instance, this was evident by the route he too across the country, the people he met, the odd jobs he chose showed a highly respectable way. Jon Krakauer is known to a good written and thus his writing skills are reflected in this story.
If you have access to this possessions list and are able to detail all of the other property found with McCandless, why would you choose to list everything but this map when doing so? And then later, choose not to even mention its existence when specifically discussing the subject of maps? A fair question for Jon Krakauer. Interestingly, he continues to let others believe that Chris didn't have any map at all, and his pat answer to questions on the subject deflects the truth by talking about what other people say rather than correcting the interviewer (excerpts below from The Oprah Winfrey Show, 9/20/07; and Sundance Channel's 2007 season premiere of Iconoclasts):
Overall, Jon Krakauer's book Into Thin Air should be considered a great work of literature because Krakauer uses themes that readers can relate to and follow, he managed to make non-fiction adventure novels popular again from writing one novel (Into Thin Air is number nine on National Geographic's "Best Adventure Stories of All Time"), and he found a creative and innovative way to write his book.
Chris McCandless's Body Mass Index (BMI) was on a downward trajectory from the day he walked "into the wild," and it continued steadily downward until his death by starvation 113 days later. In all of the above Jon Krakauer and Sean Penn-formulated hypotheses, the suggestion is that McCandless was doing well during his wilderness experience and then quickly starved to death after making a costly, albeit "innocent," mistake. As everyone knows, the scientific method is a 3-step process: (1) observe the facts, (2) develop a hypothesis, and (3) test the hypothesis. Based on results, the hypothesis may need to be refined and retested, over and over again, until the results cannot be disproved. Up to now, the hypothesis on McCandless appears to be: "Since he was doing well, what caused him to die of starvation?" This, of course, begs the question: On what facts is this hypothesis based? How do we know McCandless was doing well? Photos show an ever-increasingly gaunt McCandless. By McCandless's own account, there were days of no food. And his diet was low in fats. And so perhaps the above hypothesis is flawed. By pre-determining that McCandless was doing well, simply by counting the number of birds and squirrels he was eating, Krakauer and Penn are left looking for a dramatic precipitating factor that caused his ultimate starvation. However, if one wants to identify a "scientific" cause for the death of Chris McCandless, then let's start with an appropriate hypothesis, grounded in the scientific method. We observe that McCandless died of starvation. Our hypothesis then becomes: "What was the nutritional state (or rather, the energetic state) of Chris McCandless during his 113 days in the wild?"
If you're anything like us, then the mere thought of climbing Mount Everest scares you more than an episode of . Seriously guys, it's hard to read a single page of this thing without feeling some minor vertigo. Even if mountaineering isn't your cup of tea, however, you can still gain a lot by reading Into Thin Air.
And yet, beyond this botanic minutiae, perhaps the most important question for Jon Krakauer is why—if he's "puzzled" over this for years, "doggedly" sifting through the literature, and has now come so firmly to believe in this new theory—he did not change the text of his book for the Sean Penn movie cover edition that was re-released in bookstores on August 21, 2007. Indeed, despite Dr. Clausen's 1997 findings, not a word on the subject in the movie cover version released in the third week of August 2007 had been changed from the original 1996 book. It still read: "Conclusive spectrographic analysis has yet to be completed, but preliminary testing by Clausen...indicates that the seeds definitely contains traces of an alkaloid." Not even a month later, however, these movie cover editions were quietly yanked from the shelves of bookstores all across America and replaced with a hastily printed revised edition that put forth the new moldy seed hypothesis. The so-called epiphany, it seems, had more to do with Matthew Power's Men's Journal article, when the decade-long deception was finally revealed, than anything else. There's something moldy, all right, but it's not the seeds—it's the theory that Chris McCandless's death was caused by a plant he ate.
Although Krakauer feels guilty about this, he doesn't shy away from bringing up these issues in Into Thin Air. This is perhaps the most respectable part of the book. Although Krakauer is certainly not above calling out his fellow climbers for their parts in the disaster, he's also more than willing to investigate his own role in the proceedings. It'd be really easy for him to ignore these issues and whitewash his own role, so the guy deserves props for being so willing to expose himself to criticism. In fact, we'd be willing to argue that Krakauer only ends up finding his "peace" while writing the pages of Into Thin Air.